Anger and Relationships

Alaine De Botton on anger:

Not sure if this really Seneca’s take on Anger. It interesting though. The essential take on anger is that it is the result of holding unrealistic expectations and that more pessimism will help calm you down.

Anger is a philosophical problem with a philosophical solution. Perhaps a bit like CBT?

My philosophical response is that it is not sufficient. Unrealistic expectations can equally lead to sadness and then it is usually framed as disappointment. However there is something to this philosophical take. Our thoughts not the other persons behaviour are at the root of anger.

A fuller take on this idea from Marshall Rosenberg:

In short: Anger is the way we get a signal that there is an unmet need. I think he uses the example of the “check engine light”.

I’m aware of another form of anger that is not really either of the above. Anger at injustice. this is from wikipedia: “Socialism is the flame of anger against injustice.” I think of this being tied in with our fight response, adrenalin rushing to survive against onslaught. This not just in the eye of the beholder as some might say. Inequality, sexism, racism, exploitation and oppression really do exist. There is a good fight. Anger at violation of human rights surely is a good thing.

There are a couple of traps here though. Take this site:

Question: “How can I know for sure that my anger is righteous indignation?”

Answer: We can know for sure that our anger or indignation is righteous when it is directed toward what angers God Himself. Righteous anger and indignation are justly expressed when we are confronted with sin. Good examples would be anger toward child abuse, pornography, racism, homosexual activity, abortion, and the like.

Makes sense if you think God is against gay rights and women’s right to choose. But it does not make sense in the real world. Investigation is the key to knowing waht is real.

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Anger and Psychotherapy

I’ve heard this a lot in my profession:

“Anger is a socially suppressed emotion and people – especially women – need a safe place to get in touch with their anger. Expression of anger leads to discovering the emotions under the anger, being assertive and getting needs met. Anger is not the same as violence.”

The trouble with this is that it does not work like that if the person comes home and thinks it is a good idea to be angry with their partner. In some way anger can easily lead to violence verbal, emotional and physical. Marshall Rosenberg’s principle that other people are not the cause of our anger needs to be taken into the picture more fully than it often is.

It is easy for a therapist to side with the person in front of them. To see their side of the story. Much harder to concretise the “other” in the room with the other perspective.

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Angry Couples

In psychotherapy with couples the question about the nature of anger is important. It is held by many couple therapists that people who choose to be together in an intimate relationship are in a “horizontal relationship”. The tenet is that as therapists we should not take sides, but be a catalyst to the healing potential in the relationship. From an Imago website:

Romantic love is the door to a committed relationship and/or marriage and is nature’s way of connecting us with the perfect partner for our eventual healing.

In my work with couples I can hold that trust that the couples are equally wounded and that the power struggle can be nasty and that they have equal responsibility to get out of it. Each partner can take full responsibility for the relationship.

Talk so the other will listen.
Listen so the other will talk.

Even when there seems to be abuse of power, it usually does not take long to get to the fear, hurt, powerlessness and vulnerability under the surface. All problems in the relationship are co-created. i.e. the way one partner talks leads to the way the other listens – learn to talk without blaming shaming and criticism. Learn to listen so the other will talk. Even social inequalities can be addressed with this principle. I’m amazed how far I can take that principle in my work with couples. I’m amazed because I don’t think society is an even playing field.

Male Privilege

Look at the list here “160+ Examples of Male Privilege in All Areas of Life”. This social inequality seeps deeply onto marriage and committed relationships.

Michael White years ago drew my attention to a Gregory Bateson idea: there are “restraints of feedback and restraints of redundancy” The feed back ones are created on the level playing field.

The other restraint is due to the social values that are the ruin of a relationship.

Therapist’s Values

William Doherty is very good at seeing and responding to the social forces that mess up relationships. His book Take Back Your Marriage, Second Edition: Sticking Together in a World That Pulls Us Apart is excellent. All about the restraints of redundancy to use Bateson’s impossible jargon.

In the psychotherapy Networker he advocates:

The biggest problem in couples therapy, beyond the raw incompetence that sadly abounds, is the myth of therapist neutrality, which keeps us from talking about our values with one another and our clients. If you think you’re neutral, you can’t frame clinical decisions in moral terms, let alone make your values known to your clients. That’s partly why stepfamilies and fragile couples get such bad treatment from even good therapists. Stepfamily life is like a morality play with conflicting claims for justice, loyalty, and preferential treatment. You can’t work with remarried couples without a moral compass. Fragile couples are caught in a moral crucible, trying to discern whether their personal suffering is enough to cancel their lifetime commitment, and whether their dreams for a better life outweigh their children’s needs for a stable family. The therapist’s moral values are writ large on these clinical landscapes, but we can’t talk about them without violating the neutrality taboo. And for clients, there’s the scary fact that what therapists can’t talk about may be decisive in the process and outcome of their therapy.

I think this is tricky terrain. I think it best to focus on the co-creation of the relationship rather than the unequal society it is born from. That is a value I have because there is a lot a couple can do to address these issues in their relationship IF they can connect.

Still I am pleased to have the “permission” to have values, to weave them in in such a way that I am not seen as taking sides, because I am not.

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Notes on Gordon Wheeler’s Book: Beyond Individualism

Somehow I found this book and purchased the Kindle edition It exactly relates to what I’m thinking about about the moment.

As I’m grappling with psychodrama and the relational paradigm, it is good to find someone who has grappled with this in Gestalt. Gestalt is in some ways born out of psychodrama, though it has from my experience been far more “individualistic”, it is individual therapy in the group, and then there is that Prayer by Perls! I have no doubt that Moreno pioneered a relational conception of reality (see Zerka Moreno on Doubling and Tele and The Locus of Therapy – Moreno, but that it was still somewhat rooted in the individual paradigm. Perhaps Wheeler & Harville Hendrix came to this specific consciousness separately?

History of the old paradigm

I’m reading it slowly and want to catch the nuances of his version of the relational paradigm. The first section is about the history of the old paradigm – and summed up in the quote below. (Wheeler, 2000, pp 52-53)

Is there no individual at all? Or is it a figure ground thing? Is the old paradigm absorbed in the next? What does he make of Buber? How does his perspective impact on practice?

The Individualist Paradigm

All this is the expression of what we have already begun calling here the paradigm of individualism, a complex and interlocking set of underlying assumptions and hidden presuppositions that has a 3000-year pedigree in the West, running straight back to the Greeks and then forward in a largely unbroken line down through the Hellenized Hebrews, the Christian synthesis and its medieval flowering, the Renaissance with its rediscovery of humanism, the Enlightenment, the 19th-Century age of scientific materialism, and right on down to our own post-modern times. In the process this paradigm serves to unite thinkers and movements as otherwise diverse as Plato and the Hebrew Prophets, Galileo and the Church, Freud and the Behaviorists, or Carl Jung and Karl Marx, all of whom may disagree vehemently and sometimes violently with each other about the dynamics and determinants of human behavior, the direction of history, the motivation and purpose of life, and so on — but all of whom are united at this deeper level by underlying assumptions, taken for granted but seldom articulated, about the nature of the individual self, which is to say, who those individual human beings are who are living that life, and having or creating or submitting to those experiences.
The fundamental propositions of that paradigm, as we have already seen and as we lift them out now for examination, are: 1) that the individual is prior to relationship, and exists in some essential way apart from relational context and connection, and 2) that relationships themselves are therefore secondary, and in some sense less real than the individuals who enter into them, who after all were already there, fully formed, and can come and go from one relationship to another as their own needs and circumstances dictate, presumably without altering their own essential nature. To Plato, as we have said, these propositions must have seemed incontrovertible and probably too obvious to bear mention — as indeed they may seem to us, on some purely logical level anyway, even if we do feel some nagging discomfort with them when they’re presented in this bald way — a hesitation growing perhaps out of living or working with infants and children, out of spiritual concerns or experiences we may have had, from intimate relationship and deep commitments, or just from our everyday experiences of living with and caring for other people. The fundamental separation of one individual’s experience from that of another, which follows directly from these assumptions, would likewise have seemed obvious to Plato — as would Descartes’s classic separation of mind or self from body, which was essentially unchanged from the Greek view, only some two thousand years later. The soul, which is the essence of the person, is individual, eternal, and unchanging — and of course separate from this material world, again by creation, which again closes off developmental or relational questions.
Wheeler, G. (2000). Beyond individualism: Toward a new understanding of self, relationship, and experience (1st ed.). United States: Analytic Press,U.S.

I’ll Make more notes as I go.

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“Origins of Encounter and Encounter Groups” by J.L. And Zerka Moreno

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I managed to get hold of a monograph, Origins of Encounter and Encounter groups. (Moreno & Moreno, 1970). It is a stimulating read. I have just created three separate posts.


Balancing openness with the integrity of the psychodrama method.

Moreno and social science
This monograph has a concise statement that I have not seen before.

Encounter
This is obviously the main theme of the monograph. Useful. Encounter is so central to Moreno’s opus, but it has not been developed well in practice. It was railroaded by the ‘encounter’ movement.

Moreno, J. L., & Moreno, Z. T. (1970). Origins of encounter and encounter groups (Psychodrama and group psychotherapy monographs, no. 45). Beacon House.

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Book: Relational Psychotherapy, Psychoanalysis and Counselling: Appraisals and reappraisals — ed: Del Loewenthal, Andrew Samuels

Relational Psychotherapy, Psychoanalysis and Counselling: Appraisals and reappraisals [Kindle Edition] Del Loewenthal (Editor), Andrew Samuels (Editor)

Relational psychotherapy

In the light of the last post I’m keen to read this book and pleased its in Kindle format. The image on the cover is evocative! It shows well the potential for psychotherapy to create ambivalence in a relationship.

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Evolution and human behaviour and culture.

So much on my mind – I can’t keep up with it!

Books to read on relationships – “Marriage is the medium”

I have been reflecting on the role of evolution in relationships.

I doubt that marriage was somehow hard wired or ‘natural’ yet what is our pairing history?

I have a hypothesis:

We became human through a process of evolutionary development where we gained an advantage by walking upright, liberating the hands, developing language, having a bigger brain. Some of these processes or all of them, involved us being born as infantile creatures more vulnerable than other mammals. We are born at what  might be a more juvenile stage in other primates. This means that the parents play a vital role in development.  Grandparents do too; an explaining why we live beyond our reproductive life. Through the grandparents the group has a collective memory and redundancy in its nurturing capacity.

Psychologically this can all go haywire, evolution did not provide a fool proof post-natal environment. In fact it may be that what does not kill us makes us stronger psychologically. We have attachment wounds and seek out spouses that offer the possibility for psychological healing, a second go at being nurtured. It may be that the fear of change leads us to seek out partners that confirm our familiar view of the world and ourselves and reinforce it. Or there may be strong out-of-awareness mechanisms that can see the healing opportunity. But for some reason pair-bonds evolve that have the potential for re-living (a hellish time) and then repairing attachment wounds.

Some of this may happen while the partners are young, though I imagine it is more likely in the grand-parent phase of life. It may not have happened a lot, but if a tribe had sufficient elders who were somewhat psychologically healed it would lead to significant advantages for the group. Hence the evolution of cultural taboos against divorce and incentives for staying together.

Whatever the reason for the power of hanging-on in a relationship, there is a process of healing that is possible if there is guidance and consciousness. This healing does not happen if at the point of difficulty in the relationship partners just move on. By staying in the relationship, and becoming conscious the marriage becomes a healing space just like a therapeutic relationship. In fact the therapeutic healing space is a surrogate marriage, it can even be a futile substitute. Marriage becomes an alchemical crucible, where stages of transformation can be facilitated by conscious attention. The evolutionary basis is there but we also have reason and consciousness and we have developed capacity for depth and loving relationships. This cultural evolution can happen much faster than physical changes, and there is currently a rapid shift from individualism to a relational paradigm.

There are plenty of other, less benign forces at work that explain marriage, such as inheritance of wealth and bonding families and tribes, however the healing potential of relationships is also there. Very recently (slowly) we as humans may be ridding ourselves of sexist elements of marriage such as ownership of women by men and becoming more conscious of the healing potential.

With this hypothesis to sharpen and examine I have a pile of books to read on my kindle:

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Darwin’s Legacy: Scenarios in Human Evolution (African Archaeology Series) [Kindle Edition] Sue Taylor Parker (Author), Karin Enstam Jaffe (Author)

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Sex, Murder, and the Meaning of Life: A Psychologist Investigates How Evolution, Cognition, and Complexity are Revolutionizing our View of Human Nature

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The Dawn Warriors: Man’s Evolution Toward Peace

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Robert Bigelow was my teacher in 1969 at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch. I was deeply influenced by his teaching. It seemed like we were getting genetics 101, but I now see that his insights were very rare, and they did not get a good grip on the orthodoxies. Sone of the details may be wrong or dated – the overall hypothesis makes sense and makes his book a worthy candidate for Peace Studies.

Time I read it again – not on the kindle unfortunately.

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The Meaning of Human Existence [Kindle Edition]
Edward O. Wilson (Author)

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Then a couple by Stephanie Coontz (she is mentioned in an earlier post relevant to this discussion) here :

The Way We Never Were: American Families And The Nostalgia Trap Paperback – October 6, 1993
by Stephanie Coontz>

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Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage [Kindle Edition – downloaded sample] Stephanie Coontz

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Diane Wolfthal Images of Rape

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A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion
Here is a review: Goodreads

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Sex: A Natural History

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The Evolution of Marriage and of the Family
By Charles Jean Marie Letourneau

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Ginette Paris — Wisdom of the Psyche: Depth Psychology after Neuroscience

One of the books that gripped me and introduced me to Archetypal Psychology was Ginette Paris’ Pagan Grace (Seem to not have a post about that book — maybe soon?) – I loved it and it was like clicking a hyperlink into a new world. So happy today to have a newish book as a sample on the kindle.

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Books are not what they used to be.

Been posting a few items about books here.  Very casual. Hardly posted a thing this year, and see post on Evernote below re that. Feel some motivation coming on.

The motivation is to post book covers and snippets because I am loving my ebooks – have for years.  I don’t really want the paper books anymore.  But I miss the affordance of the stacks of books lying around unread.  They are now just a line of links on a screen and sometimes I can’t even recall why I have the book sample or who recommended it.  There are so many samples, just a list! So I’ll post unread books here, awaiting reviews.

Once paper books are read they can go on a shelf somewhere.  Even the pile in the garage.  I can look at them when I tidy up, and think, oh yes I remember that.

OK, so there is a purpose for the blog, to notice what I have in my ebook library in some sort of meaningful way.  So out with Evernote for books – and onto the blog with them.  Expect more flimsy post with cover pictures.

I will update posts too, I often do that here, they need edits and additions as they go up very rough.

I tried Goodreads for this purpose, however for some reason I am more attracted to my own blog, at least first. Social media can come later, if at all.

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There is already plenty here in the blog to stir reminiscences.  There are references to books back to 1999.  As I went back to look I found a dead link to this item

Malcolm Gladwell on Blockbusters and books.  Collaborative filtering!

Just six
authors–John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Stephen King, Michael Crichton,
Dean Koontz, and Danielle Steel–account for sixty-three of the
books on the list. In a world more dependent on collaborative filtering,
Grisham, Clancy, King, and Steel would still sell a lot of books. But
you’d expect to see many more books like “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya
Sisterhood”–many more new writers–make their way onto the best-
seller list. And the gap between the very best selling books and
those in the middle would narrow. Collaborative filtering, Hagel
says, “favors the smaller, the more talented, more quality
products that may have a hard time getting visibility because
they are not particularly good at marketing.”

It seems he was wrong though.

Must revisit, interesting. What has happened 15 years later to those lists?

web.archive.org/web/20000301085403/http://www.gladwell.com/1999_10_04_a_sleeper.htm

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Joseph Boyden — The Orenda

I’m gripped at about 20% into the book.

This Item puts me off a bit, though it also provides extra food for thought.

So far I think the author presents the world a world animated with the spirit of life in a sympathetic way and the Catholic view to the contrary is almost mocked, thus so far so good.

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the orenda

Enjoyed the CBC video about writing the novel, here:

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Later – upon finishing the book — Thursday, 18 December 2014

It was horrendously violent – and it is hard to believe that such cruelty is possible. However I don’t agree with the article linked to above that is biased towards the priests or the against the Iroquois.

I finished it a few days ago and the book is still with me, it had an impact, not just the violence, but the characters, and particularly the sense of the soul of things and people – the orenda – that gives the book its title.

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The Peripheral – William Gibson

I just heard there was a new William Gibson book out, and pre ordered it on Amazon

In the meantime I’ve enjoyed this interview in The Guardian by Ned Beauman here are the last two paragraphs:

I understood perfectly well before reading The Peripheral that our planet is beginning to roll down a very steep slope. And yet there was something terrifying about finding it here, perhaps because I’ve been absorbed in Gibson for most of my lifetime. His previous dystopias, with their overflowing slums, feel jolly by comparison; here, even Gibson’s hackers and mercenaries and television personalities are bereaved by climate change. It’s as if Gibson’s work is a city, and I have lived in that city since I was a teenager, and now that city is being drowned before my eyes. Before I left, Gibson admitted that his own story “surprised me with its grim matter-of-factness. I wasn’t fully aware of the implications, at the start. Though in my personal model of writing fiction, one never really is.”

All the same, this shouldn’t discourage anyone from reading The Peripheral, which is not, in fact, a remotely grim book. First of all, books that are as frantic with imagination as Gibson’s books, as frantic with the appetite to see what happens to us next, cannot be grim; second, Gibson’s famous weakness for happy endings has not been entirely suppressed here; and third, the details of our fate are mostly confined to that one scene towards the end, when Netherton, our descendant, explains what happened before he was born. As we read it, we ought to be like Flynne, who sits under the oak in her front yard and listens without hysterics as she hears the story of a world in which “everything, however deeply fucked in general, was lit increasingly by the new.”

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The Couch and the Stage: Integrating Words and Action in Psychotherapy — Robert J. Landy

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The Couch and the Stage: Integrating Words and Action in Psychotherapy
Robert J. Landy

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